Five for Friday: What I did in Hawai’i

I went home to Hawai’i to spend the December holidays with my parents. It’s the first time in 14 years I’ve gone back to Hawai’i in December, because I usually try to escape NZ in the Southern Hemisphere winter (June-Sept), not our lovely early summer.

But I had an absolutely wonderful trip, and am so glad I went home. Here’s some of the things I got up to:

1. Eating lots of fruit

My parents have a tropical fruit farm, and grow pretty much every tropical fruit you’ve ever heard of (except durian), and lots you haven’t. And I gorged on as much of them as you can possibly have every day without bad things happening…

Tropical fruit
Tropical fruit
Tropical fruit

2. Throwing a 9 course Christmas Eve dinner for 11 based on historical recipes

I wanted to do something a bit fun and different for my parent’s big holiday celebration (which ended up being Christmas Eve dinner), and a formal, coursed dinner is definitely a novelty in Hawai’i – even more so if it’s historical!

I melded historical recipes with local ingredients, and we had:

Apertifs: Spiced rosajamaica tea and bread with sauces.

Soupe: Poree Blanche (Medieval white soup with aliums and almond milk), with green onions instead of leeks, and macadamia nut milk instead of almonds

Entree: Torte Salviate (Herbed Egg Tart) (15th Century), with duck eggs and herbs from my parents farm

Salad: Salmagundi (17th century) using ingredients entirely from the farm

Plat Principal: Savory Frumetee (Medieval) made with venison stock, and Venison with Sauce Verte. All the historical mentions of frumentee I could find describe it being served with venison, and the feral deer on Moloka’i are out of control at the moment, so everyone has a freezer full of it. Sauce verde is parsley and verjuice with spices – the perfect tart accompaniment to the heavy, sweet, spiced flavours so popular in Medieval mains.

Amuse Boche: Midshipman’s Butter (18th Century). What’s Midshipman’s Butter? Avocado! An Englishman in the Caribbean in the 18th century described avocado served as a salad, and avocado on toast.

Sweets: Ices (Regency): Mango lassi and guanabana (soursop) ices with pecan cookies. The ices were vegan: coconut and frozen fruit, and the best ice cream I’ve ever made. Perfect texture, divine flavour.

Dessert: Baklava (14th century), and dried fruit in rosewater syrup (Medieval) over macadamia pulp. One of the family friends was Turkish, and baklava and fruits in syrup are documented back to at least the 14th century, so she made them. Traditionally the fruit would be served over rice pudding, but we used the leftover macadamia nut from the soup. She also gave her baklava a tropical twist with lime and coconut. So delicious!

Digestifs: Fruitcake and turkish coffee or tea. My parents-in-law taught me how to make the family fruitcake recipe (sans alcohol, because I’m a Baha’i), and I hauled all 4 kilos of it to Hawai’i in my suitcase. Customs had no problem with it, but it sure put a strain on my luggage allowance. And it was delicious – especially with properly made Turkish coffee. Or so I’m told: I’m not a coffee drinker.

It took some help from a couple of family friends, but I pulled it off, and I’m so proud of myself!

And I forgot to take a single photo…

So here’s some of the fruitcake prep, and leftover ice cream.

Tropical fruit

3. Finally having a palm tree for a Christmas tree

Hawai’i isn’t exactly standard spruce and pine Christmas tree territory. The usual local tree is the Norfolk Pine.

I’ve always secretly hankered for a palm tree for a Christmas tree: if you’re in Hawai’i you might as well lean in to it!

But palm trees aren’t actually suitable trees – they are either too big and heavy, or too weak when they are small enough. However, in the last few years a new type of palm has begun sprouting up everywhere in the woods around my parents house. It was probably planted by someone as an ornamental, and is now being spread by birds.

As we came up to Christmas we were at a loss for a tree. The one Norfolk pine on the farm was looking very scraggly indeed, and we weren’t able to source another. I finally suggested just making a really big flower arrangement and hanging a few ornaments on it. As I was collecting ferns for my flower arrangement I saw one of these palm trees. A pair of loppers, some PVC pip in a bucket, and a bit of jiggling later, and I’d managed a palm tree Christmas tree!

You couldn’t hang anything heavy on it, but it was perfect for my Mum’s antique glass ornaments and her Victorian ‘diaper Santa’.

4. Enjoying some family history

My Dad went back to the US mainland to visit his family this year, and collected a bunch of family photographs, many of which I’d never seen before. I loved getting a glimpse into the childhood of his parents and grandparents.

Family history
Family history

I learned that his mother was a clotheshorse (which I’d always suspected – I inherited most of her fabric stash and some of her wardrobe), and was also a huge fan of trousers all the way back in the 30s!

Family history

5. Visiting the Hawai’i National Baha’i Center

The Hawai’i-NZ flight leaves early in the morning, which means you have to fly over from an outer island and spend the night in Honolulu to catch your flight. This is usually annoying and expensive, but this time it was wonderful, because I got to stay with friends and visit the National Baha’i Center of Hawai’i.

I haven’t been to it since I was a teenager, and it’s a beautiful space, and was full of a gorgeous art exhibition. It was a very special end to a wonderful visit.

The National Baha'i Center of Hawaii,


  1. PepperReed says

    Wonderful! I’m glad you had a great trip.

    Rambutans!! Those are delicious! What are the black berry/plum-like fruits in the next photo? That tree’s bark is interesting. #BotanyNerd


  2. Julie Ann says

    I think it’s so wonderful that you got to visit your family and that there are still all of those old pictures for your family to enjoy. They are all beautiful. Love Baklava, not sure if I have tried any of the others mentioned / pictured minus the Mango. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Elyse says

    In the family photos, third image, bottom center photo – I’m shocked that isn’t you posing! I don’t know about facial features, but the stance reminds me of a lot of your historical dress photos.

  4. Thank you for sharing! I always love reading your posts. I am always really interested when you talk about your Baha’i faith– thank you for sharing it with us! I would love to hear more.

  5. Elise says

    My favorite part was the “I had avocado toast before everyone else discovered it” story about the midshipmans butter. Sigh…hipsters. Always making me chuckle. (Although this gentleman knew about avocado toast before the hipsters so…maybe HE is the real hipster)

    The food looks ever-so delicious, and the aloha around the table and the decorations make for a simply wonderful time. Thanks for sharing the fun with us.

  6. Julia says

    It sounds like a lovely trip. And you make me want to eat a bunch of fruit!

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